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Types of mushroom Substrates

Below are some examples of various types of mushroom substrates.  A substrate is basically just a fancy name for any material on which a mushroom can grow.  This list is by no means exhaustive!


Straws from cereal grain (such as wheat, rye, and oat) provide a good foundation for mushroom growth. When our substrate formulas call for straw, we most often choose wheat straw.  Straw is a flexible substrate ingredient, and as such, it can be used to grow many different types of mushrooms. Most mushrooms have no problem breaking down the plant fibers of straw, making it a very versatile substrate.  A disadvantage of using straw is that it needs to be prepared first.  Straw is usually laden with all sorts of contaminants or microbes.  This is not at all optimal for mushroom cultivation.  If you don't get rid of these tiny competitors on the straw first, then the mushroom mycelium may not have a chance to grow.  Therefore straw must be treated prior to inoculation.  The most common treatment for ridding straw of microbes is heat pasteurization.

LogsBuy Logs

You can grow mushrooms on logs with great success.  Basically the log is cut, inoculated with plug spawn, and then generally left to incubate.  In considering a prospective log for inoculation, you must take into account when the log was cut and the type of wood the log is made from. Winter and early spring cut logs seem to produce mushrooms the best.  The best time for log inoculation is within 3 months after they have been cut.  This is because after a few months of sitting outside the logs begin to be attacked by other fungi.

It's best to choose the same type of wood that your desired mushroom grows on normally in nature.  However, any quickly decomposing hardwood that's not too dense will do.  Elm, beech, alder, ash, and cottonwood are all fine choices.  Thicker hardwoods, such as oak, will take longer to produce mushrooms but they will continue to produce them for a longer time.  Make sure the log is healthy, with no signs of decay, rot, or previous fungal growth.  There is no standard length that they need to be.  Most logs are commonly cut into 1 or 4 foot long pieces for ease of handling and storage.

What are the advantages of using logs you ask?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  Certain types of mushrooms prefer wood to other substrates, such as straw, and tend to grow much better on logs.  A log can also produce mushrooms for years while you will only get a couple of flushes from straw.  We can provide precut premium quality logs in 1’ and 4’ lengths shipped directly to your door.

Enriched Sawdust

Enriched sawdust is a substrate not frequently used by home cultivators or do-it-yourselfers. It is more difficult to prepare than other substrates, so it is most often used by commercial growers or in commercially prepared home cultivation kits (like our Mushroom Farms).  Although it works quite well with a variety of different mushrooms, there are a lot of factors to consider.

You must think about the type of wood and the creation of the sawdust from the wood you have chosen.  The same rules apply to sawdust that applies to logs- meaning hardwoods are best.  Once you choose the type of wood, you need to have the equipment to be able to turn it into sawdust or find somewhere that will do to for you. 

There are still other factors you must take into consideration.  If the sawdust is too fine, it will pack too densely and the mycelium won't get the air it needs to thrive.  Another consideration is that sawdust itself is often not nutritious enough alone. It should be enriched with a nitrogen supplement like bran.  The proper ratio of air and nutritional supplements combined with the proper wood will yield many more mushrooms than using plain sawdust alone.  A final concern is that, due to possible microscopic competitors, sawdust should be sterilized before use much like straw. This requires special equipment.

Are there other Substrates?

Certainly there are!  Logs, sawdust and straw are the most common types of substrates used for growing mushrooms.  However, mushrooms can grow on lots of other materials.  Below are just a few other effective substrates:

  • Stumps
  • Compost
  • Paper/paper products (make sure any inks used were non-toxic)
  • Cardboard (again, only if non-toxic dyes were used)
  • Used coffee grounds (organic)
  • Used tea leaves (organic)
  • Gardening debris
  • Other organic materials such as seed shells, corncobs, and banana fronds.

You can use your imagination and experiment! Just make sure the substrate is organic and definitely non-toxic, as mushrooms will extract toxicity from the substrate.

What is the best mushroom Substrate?

There really is no correct answer since different species of mushrooms prefer different substrates.  No different than when choosing spawn, the answer of which substrate is correct depends largely on your goals. But regardless of your specific situation, it is generally a good idea to match your spawn to your substrate.

For example, if you want to grow mushrooms on logs, a wood-based spawn like a plug is best. The theory is that since the mycelium is already familiar with the spawn material, colonization time will be reduced and overall mushroom production will be improved.

You also need to take into account the types of mushrooms that you want to grow personally.  Some mushrooms, such as reishi, maitake, and lion's mane, prefer a wood-based substrate while others, like oyster mushrooms are not as discriminating and will thrive on just about anything.

Below is a list of which substrates we feel are best for which spawn.  This is just a general guideline because when it comes to mushrooms, their substrates and their spawn, nothing is set in stone.

  • Sawdust Spawn is appropriate for wood-based substrates such as logs, wood chips, enriched sawdust, and cardboard. Sawdust spawn can also be a good choice for outdoor straw beds.
  • Grain Spawn is mostly used with indoor bags of pasteurized straw or enriched sawdust (such as our Mushroom Farms).
  • Plug/Dowel Spawn is mostly used with logs, stumps and wood chips.

All of which are readily available for purchase right here from where we believe in what we do and take pride in the quality of our products.Buy Substrates